The Daily Dish

The Federal Reserve Board has kept overnight interest rates near zero since December 2008 and conducted a large-scale campaign of quantitative easing. The latter has ended — although the issue of reducing its massive portfolio of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities remains — and the remaining task is to begin to “normalize” monetary policy; i.e. raise interest rates. The exit from extraordinary policy has always been expected to be a difficult matter and yesterday’s Fed announcement is illustrative of the difficulties.

The Best and Worst of Regulation in 2014

As the President’s “Year of Action” in 2014 quickly turns into another year of action in 2015, let’s reflect on what executive action meant for regulation this year. Regulators managed to publish at least $174 billion in costs, with still a few more days left to regulate. The largest proposal is now freshly dry in the Federal Register, a $15 billion proposal regulating ozone, with standards so tough that many national parks might fail to comply. There are dozens of regulations worthy of inclusion, but below is a partial list of the best and the worst of federal regulation in 2014.

Highs and Lows in Fiscal Policy in 2014

In terms of fiscal policy, 2014 was not a banner year. Very few positive steps were taken to fundamentally improve the nation’s budget and tax challenges, though unlike some recent years, there was little new policy to further harm the nation’s economic health, such as an inefficient stimulus, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or a new slate of tax increases. Despite the lack of major activity, some progress was made in some areas, and some ground was lost in others. Hopefully, with the benefit of hindsight, 2014 will be seen as a year when some important groundwork was laid on good fiscal policy, while 2014’s missteps get obscured by time.

The Daily Dish

The recent slowdown in the growth rate of national health care spending has been a bit of good news, with only the danger that the slowdown will be reversed (as has happened in the past). Many have tried to attribute the slowdown to Obamacare's delivery system reforms, a claim nicely dissected by Jim Capretta. More likely, the slowdown in part reflects the diffusion of stronger incentives like copays, deductibles, and — in particular — Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

Proposed Dishwasher Efficiency Standards

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently released a proposed rule updating the energy efficiency standards for residential dishwashers. The proposal establishes divergent standards for “standard” and “compact” machines. Interestingly, this rulemaking comes only two years since a 2012 direct final rule regulating dishwashers. The unofficial, pre-publication version of the current proposal is 178 pages.

The Daily Dish

Exhale. It is over. Saturday, the Senate passed the $1.1 trillion 2015 funding bill known as the “Cromnibus.” But it was not without controversy, particularly because of the inclusion of a provision amending the Dodd-Frank financial reform act. As described by the progressive Huffington Post "One controversial provision in the spending bill weakens the Dodd-Frank Act's restrictions on banks that want to trade in the same sorts of risky derivatives that sparked the financial meltdown of 2008, and allows the banks to back their bets with taxpayer-backed insurance.

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